With the NFL Draft less than one month away, and with free agency's initial frenzy having cooled off, it's time to take a look at where the Seahawks roster stands compared to the team that finished the 2015 season. Plenty can and will change before the team reports to training camp this summer, and the Seahawks have nine picks in the 2016 draft, so nothing is settled at this point, but already through a few weeks of free agency, we have seen significant changes to Seattle's roster.
Retained in free agency:
DT Ahtyba Rubin,
CB Jeremy Lane,
WR Jermaine Kearse,
P Jon Ryan,
LB Mike Morgan,
RB Christine Michael.
Lost in free agency:
DT Brandon Mebane,
LT Russell Okung,
RG J.R. Sweezy,
LB Bruce Irvin,
OL Alvin Bailey,
LS Clint Gresham (released),
LS Andrew East (released).
Added in free agency:
OT J'Marcus Webb,
OT Bradley Sowell,
DT Sealver Siliga,
LS Drew Ferris.
Punter Jon Ryan finalized his new contract on Monday signing to stay in Seattle with the Seahawks for another four years. He was joined by his fiance, Sarah Colonna, at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center for the signing.
What lies ahead?
Offense: With the Seahawks losing two starters on their offensive line, it's understandable that there are questions about that position group in particular, especially since the line struggled early last season before coming together to help the offense take off in the second half of the season.
But despite the losses of both Okung and Sweezy, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll expressed optimism about where his line is headed in 2016. More help could be coming via the draft or free agency, but the way things stand now, both Carroll and general manager John Schneider said Garry Gilliam and Sowell will likely compete at left tackle, while Webb has a good chance to take over at right tackle if Gilliam moves to the left side.
"I think we are in good shape," Carroll said from the NFL annual meetings, via the Seattle Times. "It's very fortunate that we have Garry Gilliam. The combination of the fact that he played this year and did a good job, he gained the starter's mentality and all that, we think we have an athlete who is really equipped to play that spot. But we are going to have to go to camp and see how that works out. We'll have the flexibility to see how Brad looks there. We could also do J'Marcus (Webb) there if we have to and Garry could stay on the right side, so we'll figure that out when we get to camp and get our hands on the guys.
"Garry Gilliam, he's a tremendous prospect to be a left tackle also," Carroll said. "I think you guys are real concerned about this spot—we're really not. We're excited to see how it turns out. But we have good viable guys to take a shot, and we'll see how Terry Poole can do too at the right tackle spot to give us four guys who really can mix it. We have to figure it out as we go, but I've never been worried about that. But we just want it to happen quickly and get the thing situated as quickly as we can. No timeline on that but that will be one of our concerns as we go through."
Mark Glowinski, who filled in for Sweezy in a Week 17 win at Arizona, is the most likely candidate to take over at right guard, but again, plenty can happen between now and the start of the season.
"We are really counting on Mark to be a player," Carroll said. "We loved what he did when he finally had his chance to start and we saw him in practices. He's a real tough guy, totally gets it. We think he's a natural guard. It was part of the understanding that if we lost Sweezy he would have a chance to step up and we are excited about what he can do. He looked really good when he played against the Cardinals and showed us I think the future that he can play for us and be a big factor.''
As for the rest of the offense, depth, more than starting jobs, appears to be where the battles will pay out. Thomas Rawls is expected to take over for the retiring Marshawn Lynch at running back, and Michael's re-signing is another option there, but the Seahawks will look to add depth heading into camp. Tarvaris Jackson remains unsigned at the moment, which means the Seahawks could be in the market for a backup to quarterback Russell Wilson. And while the Seahawks feel good about their pass-catching group of Doug Baldwin, Kearse, Tyler Lockett, Jimmy Graham and more, they wouldn't hesitate to add another playmaker if one were available at the right spot in the draft.
Defense: Irvin's departure could open the door for two players to expand their roles seeing as Irvin was both the starting strongside linebacker in the base defense and also a pass-rusher in nickel situations. Carroll and Schneider have mentioned Frank Clark as a possibility to take over some of those pass-rushing duties, though it's less likely he'll play linebacker. Instead, someone like Morgan or Cassius Marsh could fill that role, or again, this is another position that could be addressed through the draft.
Along the line, Rubin's re-signing is big, but Seattle will need to find a nose tackle to replace Mebane, who was the team's longest-tenured player before signing with San Diego. Siliga, who briefly spent time with Seattle in 2013, could take over that role, but this is another spot where a draft said to be deep in interior linemen could factor into the equation.
Lane's re-signing helps solidify things on the back end, with Seattle now having all of its returning starters in the secondary under contract—a statement that holds true whether you view Lane or DeShawn Shead as the starter at cornerback after the two split time there down the stretch. Those two, who both also played the nickel corner role when the other was playing right cornerback, give the Seahawks a lot of flexibility to mix and match, and Carroll feels good about the depth he has at corner in players like Tharold Simon, Tye Smith, Marcus Burley, and Mohammed Seisay.
"I was really happy to get Jeremy back, because I thought that's a big deal for us," Carroll said. "His best play is ahead of him. He's done great stuff for us. But that solidifies the corner spot going into the draft, which I thought was really important. I really thought DeShawn Shead did a great job last year, but I think the combination of Jeremy and DeShawn gives us two different style corners, and both those guys play the nickel spot. It allows us to flip guys around matchup-wise. So we have all the flexibility, the best flexibility we've ever had, and it allows us to go into the draft and not have to be concerned about having to get a guy. With the young competition that we have, we think that it's a pretty strong position for us."
Special Teams: With Ryan re-signed and kicker Steven Hauschka under contract, two of the three specialist spots are pretty easy to predict, but the release of Gresham, the team's long snapper for six seasons, means someone new will handle that job. As of now, Ferris is the only long snapper on the roster, but don't be surprised if someone else is added at some point to compete for the job. Re-signing Morgan was a big move for Seattle's special teams play as well, and you can expect that whatever the Seahawks do in the draft, they'll expect several of the rookies added to be able to contribute on special teams.
Take a look at some of the best Jon Ryan photos over his last 8 seasons with the Seahawks. Looks like we'll have few more years of this goodness.